July 4, 2012

Pro-Gay Presbyterians Discuss “Marriage Equality”

by Christian M. Stempert

Michael Adee (right) passed on MLP’s mantle of leadership on to Patrick Evans (left). (Photo Credit: Flickr)

“This is a sanctuary. This is a safe space.” For a couple of hours, the More Light Presbyterians were able to retreat into one of the Westin Hotel’s ballrooms, away from the hard work and “hostile environment” of the PCUSA General Assembly. If you walk around the convention center, it seems like more than half the people in attendance have rainbow stoles draped around their necks so it is hard to imagine the GA is too terribly “hostile” to an aggressively pro-homosexual group. Nonetheless, the one hundred twenty or so attendees of the luncheon breathed an audible sigh of relief.

After serving as More Light’s Executive Director for thirteen years, Dr. Michael Adee stepped down and introduced his interim replacement, Dr. Patrick Evans. Evans is a former associate professor of sacred music at Yale University, and is currently the Artist-in-Residence at Broadway Presbyterian Church in New York City. He has been instrumental in the “welcoming church movement,” which is open to and seeks to affirm the LGBT community.

The main event of the luncheon was a panel titled: “Marriage Matters: Care for All Couples and Families.” in his introduction, Michael Adee read from a statement by Mildred Loving, one of the plaintiffs in Living v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court case which struck down the legal barriers to interracial marriages.

I have lived long enough to now see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices had given way and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry … All Americans no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have the same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others…
I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life.

The language of civil rights has been used frequently by those advocating for “marriage equality.” The failure to recognize same-sex marriage is a violation of the “basic rights and privileges” of homosexuals, and degrades them to “second-class citizens.”

Additionally, there is a lot of “pain and suffering” (their words, not mine) on the part of pastors who are unable to “properly care for” their LGBT parishioners because of the current church policy. But what exactly does the PCUSA not ministers to do? They can pray with and for their homosexual parishioners, counsel them, and provide loving support in other ways. They can even bless same-sex unions. The only restriction keeps ordained PCUSA ministers from conducting same-sex marriage ceremonies. The General Assembly and Permanent Judicial Committee has consistently ruled that performing marriage ceremonies lies outside the realm of basic, essential pastoral care, but the progressives insist that they are being forced to violate their consciences because of the “unenlightened tradition” of the church.

One of the panelists, Rev. David Ensign of Clarendon Presbyterian Church in Virginia, insisted that marriage should be a non-issue. “The church is not in the wedding business,” he said, “we are in the Jesus business.” The received sparse applause. When he concluded by saying that if we claim to love our homosexual friends, we should support what makes them happy – he received a full ovation.

Another panelist, Rev. Will McGarvey of Community Presbyterian, a joint UCC-PCUSA church in Pittsburg, California, insisted that homosexual marriages are acknowledged by God. “Weddings are vows between the individuals, that’s what matters – not the minister’s blessing.” Same-sex marriage, he said, is “covenant theology in action.”

Eric Thomas, a seminarian preparing for his final year at Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta, reminded everyone that even while the PCUSA is “making progress,” “we cannot forget our brothers and sisters who are oppressed by their geography,” since not all states legally recognize same-sex marriage. “I hope the Presbyterian Church would just be what it says it is,” he said, “loving and welcoming to everyone.” The PCUSA recognizing “marriage equality” is “not a matter of if, but a matter of when, and I hope it’s now.”

Rev. Paul Rodkey of Bethany Presbyterian Church in Washington also spoke about the upcoming November election where same-sex marriage will be up for referendum. Western Washington, according to Rodkey, “questions any kind of authority except the Republican Party,” but he hopes that coastal cities and towns will help to “bring hope to a large portion of our population.” Another man stood up and said that the situation is the same in the state of Maryland. In closing, the assembly prayed that voters would come to a more “enlightened” understanding of marriage.

6 Responses to Pro-Gay Presbyterians Discuss “Marriage Equality”

  1. Dan Trabue says:

    Theird wrote…

    The PCUSA recognizing “marriage equality” is “not a matter of if, but a matter of when, and I hope it’s now.”

    I know that this issue is a difficult one and there is much disagreement in the Christian church on what is Right and Godly and what isn’t. I don’t know that anything but time will resolve this issue (and our own meeting with the Lord, collectively and individually). But it would seem that at least this point, above, is right.

    Most likely, within 10-20 years, marriage equity will be a given across the nation.

    Most likely, within a generation or two, most christian churches will probably stand in agreement on this point – those who oppose the right of two people to engage in a marriage relationship within their orientation will probably be considered within the Christian church to be comparable to those opposed to “miscegenation.”

    What I wonder is how the minority will treat that likely reality?

    Speaking as a minority (being anabaptist and a peacemaker/pacifist, which makes me a small minority within the nation as well as within the Christian church), we tend to try to love our “mistaken” (from our point of view) brothers and sisters as best we can. We still acknowledge their place within the church and just think they are mistaken on the points where we disagree. We don’t think disagreement with us equals a rejection of God or heresy.

    I wonder if the minority on the marriage equity issue will hold the same grace, or will they insist that the vast majority are wrong and have rejected God and are heretics and satan’s servants.

    What do you think? (or do you even think it’s a given that this position will become a minority position?)

  2. […] proves to be a culmination of revisionism ranging from LGBT pep rallies to dissuading evangelism to cries for “marriage equality” to denials of orthodox Trinitarianism. Now pro-choice forces do not even pretend to try to reduce […]

  3. Gerry says:

    Marriage is an institution of gender inclusion & integration. Males & females have mixed successfully in this institution for thousands of years. It is ironic that Same Sex Marriage which is an institution that separates and segregates the sexes (M/M-F/F) is portrayed as an advancement of civil rights!

    We are suppose to grant to gays something we grant no other group in America, the civil right to create an institution (SSM) that excludes an entire class of people solely on the basis of their sex! Gay men don’t reject a woman as a suitable marriage partner because she lacks a specific quality, gay men reject all women because they are women! The same principle applies to gay women, gay women reject a all men as a suitable marriage partner simply on the basis that they are men!

    We have already been down the road of segregation and exclusion before. We learned the lesson that while all people should be equal before the law their preferences do not have to be treated as equal. Saying, “No” to the institutionalization of certain personal preferences is an exercise in justice, not injustice.

    • WayToMe says:

      Gosh, I never realized I was discriminating against an entire class of people because I have rejected all women as potential marriage partners only because they are women! Terrible prejudice on my part. Forgive me, Lord.

      (By the way, I am a woman. A bigoted one, apparently.)

  4. Mateusz says:

    You can be christians, but you don’t understand what it really mean. You should’t smoke, kill, binch drinking, steal cheat. You shouldn’t discriminate homosexual people. I am strong conservative catholic and I support marriage equality. People who are the worst they smoked tobbacco in their lifetime, they even sometimes use illegal drugs are the most hypocrites. They screaming the loudest against rights and dignity of LGBT people, but drug users, tobacco smokers really not deserve their privileges. Homosexual people if don’t hurt other people should have equal rights.

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